John Dalmas’ Moral Code in Raymond Chandler’s Novel “Red Wind”

John Dalmas is a private detective who serves as the protagonist of Raymond Chandler’s, “Red Wind”. Throughout the story, Dalmas engages in activities that each reflect principles as a cause of Dalmas’ intent. If these principles become consistent, they can be viewed as being what Dalmas’ moral code is composed of; however, Dalmas struggles to always adhere to said principles. The intent behind Dalmas’ actions can be reflective of his adherence to and acceptance of a personal moral code. Throughout “Red Wind”, Dalmas’ moral code consists of justice, courage, and nobility, as exampled by the intent in his actions.

A principle attribute of Dalmas’ moral code is justice. Justice is inherently intertwined with Dalmas’ motives throughout the story, as Dalmas would not pursue the case further than witnessing the murder if not to gain justice for someone in some form. In this sense, Dalmas’ justice contrasts that of what a judge or policeman may consider justice, as Dalmas is seeking justice for himself, and certainly not solely for the law. Since the conflict of the story seemingly contrasts the everyday life of Dalmas, as he is attempting to uncover the truth, it can be assumed that equilibrium for Dalmas is him being aware of the truth. In this sense, justice for Dalmas serves as the truth . Dalmas reflects an active presence of justice in his moral code, as it motivates him to seek to understand the truth of why he witnessed the murdering of Waldo, as well as the truth of what happened to Lola’s pearls. In this sense, Dalmas is insisting that in an ideal world all individuals would pursue justice for themselves. For Dalmas, justice takes the form of the truth, and he proves this attribute to be apart of his moral code through gaining justice come the story’s resolution. 

What is additionally proving of Dalmas’ possession of justice within his moral code is the fact that he withholds evidence from the police in the beginning of the story. When giving an account of his story to Copernik in the bar, Dalmas withholds the observation that Waldo had described the girl’s clothes in a way that no ordinary man would have. Instead of presenting his observation to Copernik, Dalmas feeds him fake information. The intent behind Dalmas’ actions in this instance is to get closer towards the truth, as it is likely that the police detectives will get in Dalmas’ way as he attempts to uncover the truth of the situation. Since justice for Dalmas takes form as the truth, deceiving Copernik in order to get closer towards the truth serves as Dalmas exercising justice. 

Courage is an attribute that Dalmas’ moral code consists of. Courage can be described as countering fear in a situation that appears dangerous, when the results of countering said fear are deemed worthy. Dalmas initially examples courage through his action of leaving Lola’s name out of the story he gave to the police. Dalmas presents his reasoning for this in the story as a result of her saving his life. Although Dalmas may have felt an obligation to avoid mentioning her to the police, he acts out of courage in recognizing that the best way for him to honour Lola is to lie to the police, committing a crime in the process. In this sense, courage can be viewed as not solely countering fear in a situation of physical danger, but in a situation of danger towards one’s overall wellbeing. The action undertaken by Dalmas reflects a belief that fear should be suppressed in situations of danger, but only when the cause is worthy of it. Dalmas chose to exercise the courageous approach in this scenario as he believed his debt to Lola to be great, and as such, worthy of the risk he puts himself in. If Lola were to of only stopped Dalmas from losing a leg, rather than saving his life, then Dalmas may have not deemed the action worthy of him exercising courage. 

Courage is additionally illustrated within the text through Dalmas chasing Al Tessilore out of the bar after he had shot Waldo. If Dalmas had acted out of cowardice rather than courage, he likely would have remained safe in the bar, giving him little chance to obtain additional information on the case. Through suppressing the fear involved with chasing any armed individual, Dalmas reflects that he believes the cause of potentially obtaining information being worthy of the risk of being harmed by Tessilore. The assertion being made by Dalmas is of rationality, as he isn’t asserting that in an ideal world people would act out of fearlessness, but instead stating that people would be courageous enough to suppress aspects of the fear, for the worthy cause of obtaining new information.

Just as any individual with a moral code, Dalmas often contrasts the attributes that make up his. An example of Dalmas utilizing fearlessness in contrast to courage, would be his lack of caution and security used when in the house of Frank Barsaly. Although eventually becoming aware that the residents of the house possess a stolen car, and a gun. Dalmas acts resoundingly fearless when interacting with the residents of the Barsaly house. The risk in this scenario differs from that of the risk taken in chasing Tessilore; the danger posed by Barsaly is noticeably higher. Although both dangerous individuals possessed a gun, Barsaly’s case is seemingly elevated by Dalmas exampling his fun-poking attitude in stating, “Are you always this tough … or just with your pajamas on?”. Dalmas’ attitude to many would be considered provoking. As such, Dalmas’ attitude serves as an act based on the principle of fearlessness rather than courage, as the potential information Dalmas would gain from the scenario is not worthy of the risk that he has put himself in. 

Nobility can be viewed as a kin to righteousness. Those who act in the name of maintaining what is right, or respectful in accordance with one’s reputation can be considered to be acting on a noble cause. 

Dalmas is shown to be a noble person as a result of his actions in multiple instances within the story. Dalmas’ nobility is initially shown through his humbleness (staying true to oneself), which becomes reflective of his mental nobility. This attribute is shown through the absence of self-distain or self-criticism by Dalmas throughout the story. A pessimistic opinion of one’s self could be expected in accordance with Dalmas’ pessimistic description of the city of Los Angeles, however Dalmas is only shown to present his opinion of himself in humble methods. This mental nobility is additionally exampled by Dalmas as he interacts with Ybarra and Copernik in his apartment, shortly after visiting Frank Barsaly. Although Copernik displays an aggressive and irritable attitude, Dalmas maintains a humorous mindset, even poking fun at Copernik. By maintaining a level-head while in a scenario of potential danger and staying true to his humorous self, Dalmas exercises mental nobility.

An additional example in which the principle behind Dalmas’ actions are shown to reflect nobility as being apart of his moral code is within the exchanging of the pearls in order to deceive Lola. Within the story, Lola describes her pearls as having great significance to her as they represent the love she still has for her departed ex-lover, Stan. Upon discovering that the original pearls were never real, Dalmas recognizes the implication that Stan’s love for Lola was potentially never real. Upon recognizing that the noble cause would be to protect Lola from the hurtful truth, Dalmas has a set of more obviously fake pearls made for him to give to Lola. In this case, Dalmas recognized the noble cause of protecting Lola from emotional harm that could have potentially stuck with her for the rest of her life. What becomes glaring of Dalmas’ moral code through this example is not that in his ideal world individuals would constantly be deceived by others, but that individuals would withhold information from others if it were going to harm them. Dalmas chose to maintain the thought in Lola’s head that the original pearls were real, in aligning with this decision rather than selling them or bluntly giving them to Lola, Dalma aligns with the most noble principle. 

Although nobility is noticeably apart of Dalmas’ moral code, he contrasts this attribute within the story. After giving Lola the second pair of imitation pearls, Dalmas drives to a beach and while flipping the original pearls into the water states, “To the memory of Stan Phillips … Just another four-flusher” (29). The intent behind Dalmas’ message can be deciphered as a statement of nobility in his moral code. Dalmas is effectively stating that he disagrees with the way in which Stan deceived Lola. In this statement of moral code, Dalmas is asserting that in his ideal world, no man would lie to a woman; however, Dalmas examples cognitive dissonance within this field of nobility just pages earlier as he had just lied to Lola. This example shows how Dalmas is not consistently fitting to his moral code and that if all of his actions were to be attributed to moral attributes, his moral code would become self-defeating. 

Every action has an intent behind it. It is through the consistency of a principle being the root of one’s actions that the principle can be viewed as apart of one’s moral code. In the case of John Dalmas, his moral code was deciphered through a recognition that a principle is almost always the root cause of an action. Although Dalmas does not strictly adhere to his moral code throughout the book, the attributes of justice, courage and nobility are apart of John Dalmas’ moral code, as shown by regularly exampling consistent principles through his actions. 

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